Just another car I'll never finish.

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DRIVEN
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Just another car I'll never finish.

Postby DRIVEN » Fri Jun 28, 2013 9:48 pm

More cut, edit, paste. It was posted on a non-Datsun forum so excuse the oversimplified bits. That aside, I make no apologies and regret almost nothing.

Chapter 1:
My wife drives a '95 Neon that we've had for 16 years. She loves it (she's a keeper, right?) but I know it isn't going to live forever. I've been looking for a suitable replacement for a few years. I actually was hoping she'd drive the Rambler wagon I had for a while but she just didn't like driving it. We finally settled on a Datsun 510 wagon. They're still pretty affordable, parts are available, it's pre-smog, they can handle well, and most importantly - she thinks they're "cute". I found the first one for $400 but it really had more body issues than I had hoped.
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My brother is my bodyman and suggested I look for a better platform. I had it for a few months and got it running and driving. Mechanically it was actually well above average. I came across the second one at a local tow yard auction. The manager said it had a blown head gasket. I assumed the engine was toast. Here's how it sat when I got it home.
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There actually IS an engine in it. The good news was that it had an L20b (2 liter) swapped in place of the 1.6 they came with. Not really a big deal because the engine was never intended to stay. I immediately started "operation unfuck".
Replaced the head gasket and leaking radiator then replaced the faulty, incorrect carb.
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Removed the decals. Tossed the ill-fitting Cavalier seats in favor of a stock pair. Upgraded from stack steering wheel to a spare 240Z unit I had.
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Next up was an altitude adjustment. I picked up some clipped stock springs from Klotz and ordered up some Toyota MR2 rear strut inserts. This is a fairly common upgrade for the front of a 510. In order to make them work you need to shorten the strut housings.
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Stock spring on the right, mystery spring on the left. Don't know why they were installed but the inside edges of the tires were wasted so I think they were used for a while. Makes no sense because there were 2" lowering blocks in the rear :roll: .
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While I was at it I replaced some worn frontend parts and installed bumpsteer spacers. Also got some different wheels and tires they were red so I painted them and added a set of trim rings I had laying around. Much better!
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Another common upgrade is replacing steel rear drums with the finned aluminum ones from a 240Z.
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Re: Just another car I'll never finish.

Postby DRIVEN » Fri Jun 28, 2013 9:51 pm

Chapter 2:
Making it more acceptable.
Around Christmas time 2009 I sold the blue wagon.
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So at that point the pumpkin wagon was finally drivable. I did a little more clean up. Blacked out the hood to temporarily disguise some poor attempts at body work by a previous owner. Since the front bumper was missing and the valance was tweaked I addressed those issues too. The other wagon had a nicer grille so I swapped them out. Some 510 guys run a deep duckbill (chin spoiler) from the Mk1 GTI but I prefer the small version so one was ordered and installed.
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Needed some tunes:
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Around this time I stumbled across a deal on a 280Z 5-speed for $40. Like I mentioned earlier, I had no intention to keep the L-series engine for very long so it really wasn't necessary. I couldn't resist. The 4-speed (bottom) next to the new 5-speed (top). See anything different? Everything!
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I needed to modify the crossmember, move the shifter hole in the floor, reroute the speedo cable and shorten the driveline. I showed the details (on a Datsun forum I belong to) of shortening my own driveline and got flamed hard about the "lack of safety" and my use of hose clamps to balance it. It was great for about 2000 miles and I should have ignored it but I finally let it get to me. I had a camping trip planned that involved an 800 mile round trip and figured I'd better "safe". I sent it to a reputable driveline shop and they screwed it up...twice, along with almost causing me to cancel the trip and costing $60 more than I was quoted. For the record, it was smoother after I shortened it and before they "did it right".
Before the camping trip I decided to investigate some inop dash lights and discovered that the dash harness had experienced a "thermal event". Once I replaced a couple wires I found that all the lights worked and my gauges were now accurate. The trip went off flawlessly. We loaded my car with the stuff and the dog. My brother and his wife and kids did the same in his '69 Volvo wagon. We spent a few days at Wallowa Lake and had a great time. Both cars ran great!
The car stayed basically just like this and I drove it all summer.

*Edit. Also fabbed up a safari rack. It was a little crowded on the trip so I figure I'd be ready for next time.
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Re: Just another car I'll never finish.

Postby DRIVEN » Fri Jun 28, 2013 9:55 pm

Chapter 3:
Here's where it starts to get offensive. Datsun guys are generally a pretty cool crowd. However, they do have a pretty short list of "acceptable" candidates for engine swaps. As long as you are sticking with an L18, L20b or any of the LZ variants everyone is happy. Those are pretty much like putting a 350 or 327 in place of a 283. Most Datsun guys are really receptive to the idea of newer Nissan engine too. The KA24E, KA24DE, CA18DET, SR20DE(T) and VG30 are all pretty common nowadays. The equivalent to a TPI, LT1 or LS swap. You won't be too ridiculed for a rotary either - as long as it's fast. It's actually kind of rare that any other swaps get completed. I knew I wanted a more modern engine but I don't like Nissan's engine control systems. Plus, they've all been done. I went on a search for an alternative. The criteria was as follows; it needed to be reliable, economical, readily available and have reasonable power. I considered Ford 2.3 turbo, Volvo turbo, Chrysler 2.2 turbo, VW TDI, even GN 3.8. The one engine I always liked the idea of was the 2.3 Olds Quad4 and it's variant the 2.4 Twincam. They run good and I just think they look cool. I decided to go with the newer 2.4 Twincam. Yeah, that oughtta piss everyone off!

I went out to PicknPull on 1/3 off day and pulled an engine, harness and ECM from a Grand Am GT. Total cost was $165 and included all accessories. It had some pretty substantial body damage so I figured it might be a safe bet. I was wrong. After a few months in the corner I pulled it out and started to prep for the swap. I ordered a gasket set and water pump and set out to clean it up. Once I pulled the pan I thought I'd pull a rod cap just for kicks. Glad I did, 3 of 4 were spun. URG! As luck would have it a half-off sale was coming up. Replacement engine from 2000 Alero that was slammed hard in the butt. This one had to be a runner. Even better, it had a GM replacement sticker on the timing cover. All cleaned, sealed and ready for harness work.
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The harness needed the automatic transmission, ABS, EGR, AC, PS and SRS circuits dissected. Part of the discard pile.
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I also did an ignition system modification. One of the common complaints/problems with the quad is the ignition system which sits between the cam towers. Too much heat and general neglect earned a poor reputation. I wanted to run without the cover anyway so I converted to remote coils from a 2.2 in a Sunfire. Easy upgrade because the wiring is fairly standardized. Plugs were different but wire colors are the same.
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Re: Just another car I'll never finish.

Postby 510freak » Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:03 pm

I really have a soft spot for goons.
need one to complete the set,someday
Taterhead » Tue Dec 08, 2015 6:35 am wrote:[quote="Taterhead » Mon Dec 07, 2015 2:41 pm


Sorry, I was channeling my inner flatcat.
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Re: Just another car I'll never finish.

Postby DRIVEN » Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:06 pm

Chapter 4:
Making it fit.
The 2.4 Twincam was never offered as a RWD and it has a unique bellhousing pattern. There was a company making a bell that would allow you to bolt a T5, Muncie, etc and also an adapter for automatics. They cost $550+. Since I had spent the money on the driveline I decided to adapt my $40 5-speed to the GM engine. After doing some research I found that the Datsun clutch disc was exactly the same diameter as the GM. Nice! I ordered a flywheel and pressure plate for the quad and a disc for the Datsun. I reused the throwout bearing and fork from the Datsun too. I found that the 1 wrap of shim stock around the Datsun pilot bushing made a nice tight fit. Next I made an adapter plate out of 3/8" plate. Nothing fancy here:
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I was feeling pretty good up until this point. I was using my old 4-speed for mockup and everything looked good on paper. When I went to slide everything together and looked through the side I found this. Not enough spline engagement. URG AGAIN!
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So what's the solution? Yup, cut the bellhousing back. Luckily, there is a ton of meat to work with. I scribed a 5/8" line all the way around and went to work. Problem solved.
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Random wife shot:
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Another fitment issue is the "thermostat" housing. The thermostat is actually under the water pump and the original outlet is plastic and points straight out of the back of the head. I found one from an earlier quad and 45ed it. I don't weld aluminum so I got a buddy to do it for me.
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Next up was a trial fit. I knew the Twincam is a tall engine and was certain that I'd have to section the crossmember. My measurements indicated it would fit under the hood - but just barely. I slipped it in and attached it at the transmission mount, marked the crossmember and pulled it back out. Trimmed as needed and reinforced on the bottom side.
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Slid it back in and fabbed mounts to bolt to the block and set in the original Datsun rubber motor mounts.
When I tried to close the hood I found that the oil fill cap hit the inner hood brace. I shaved the cap and carefully made a pocket with a hole saw. Everything fits under the hood!
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Re: Just another car I'll never finish.

Postby 510freak » Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:13 pm

Did you gusset the cross member?
Taterhead » Tue Dec 08, 2015 6:35 am wrote:[quote="Taterhead » Mon Dec 07, 2015 2:41 pm


Sorry, I was channeling my inner flatcat.
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Re: Just another car I'll never finish.

Postby DRIVEN » Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:13 pm

Chapter 5:
Getting ready to run.
So the engine is in and I need to hook everything up. Starting at the back, I picked up an extra fuel tank. My brother welded in a fuel pump hanger from a C/K pickup. I gutted the sender portion and installed a new '89 Calais fuel pump.
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I ran a feed and return line up to the front and installed a permanent fuel pressure gauge. Next, I tackled the exhaust. The manifold is on the passenger side and the Datsun system goes down the driver's side. I got a mandrel bent "J" bend kit from Speedway and joined it all together. Kind of visible here:
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It's also a good view of where the coil pack is mounted to the firewall, the coolant fill point in the return pipe and the snug clearance around the battery. I found that a '98 Jetta radiator was a perfect fit and the inlet/outlet are in the correct position. It's also very efficient along with being cheap. The electric fan was salvaged from a buddy's Landcruiser project. Mounts were obviously pretty simple.
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Another random wife shot:
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The air filter was supposed to be temporary until I got a cold air system built. It's still there :lol: .
I layed in the harness and hooked up the ECM. Then I connected it to the necessary grounds and power sources. Almost time to hit the key.
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Re: Just another car I'll never finish.

Postby DRIVEN » Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:17 pm

510freak wrote:Did you gusset the cross member?

No. I added bracing on the bottom side. I'm not a great welder. I downright suck at overheads.
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Re: Just another car I'll never finish.

Postby DRIVEN » Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:20 pm

Chapter 6:
Fire it up!
I guess I forgot to mention, everything since the middle of chapter 3 (when I got the second engine) happened in the span of 1 week. You see, there was a car show on Sat/Sun (CANBY! '11) and I didn't actually tear the car down until the previous Monday. I got cocky and it bit me in the ass. It was Friday at about 4pm by the time I got everything hooked up. I cycled the key a couple times to prime the fuel pump the over to the crank position. It fired right up...then died. I forgot all about VATS. URG yet again! I hoped I could get away with one of those $20 ebay simulators. Nope. I did a little research and discovered that the '96 ECM was the only one that had no aftermarket tuning support. Without the matching steering column and gauge cluster that were in the donor Grand Am i was out of luck. Sooooo, I had to go back to the yard to get a '97-'98 ECM. Problem with that is that the connectors totally different. I had to re-pin my harness for the newer connectors. The '96 is on top.
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I contacted Trifecta Tuning and they sent me a box and cables. He then emailed me the program which I loaded from my laptop. Not cheap but no alternative.
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I hit the key and it came to life. Once I was certain that it would run I mounted the ECM and hit the streets. All I can say is WOW. The car starts right up no matter what, gets better gas mileage, runs waaay smoother and best of all has at least twice the power it did before. I've been driving it almost daily since July and have slowly been smoothing out the kinks. I had hoped to tear it back down this winter for body and paint but it just isn't in the cards. Probably going with an aqua/turquoise lower with white top. I like 2-tone on these and rarely see it done well. So here's the parting shot until I get some more work done on it.
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Re: Just another car I'll never finish.

Postby 510freak » Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:24 pm

I really want a goon...now more so
Taterhead » Tue Dec 08, 2015 6:35 am wrote:[quote="Taterhead » Mon Dec 07, 2015 2:41 pm


Sorry, I was channeling my inner flatcat.
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Re: Just another car I'll never finish.

Postby DRIVEN » Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:25 pm

Since a couple of you guys seemed to like the turbine wheels I went back to see if I could find any shots of the car after the ride height was corrected. The third pic shows the center caps I made from PVC pipe caps. It also shows the rear hatch before I removed the emblems, shaved the lights and relocated them to the bumper. Here you go:
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Random dog shot:
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Also this one for giggles:
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I went back over the earlier posts and added a couple pics that I found too. I may add more if I run across them. My photos are not well organized.
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Re: Just another car I'll never finish.

Postby DRIVEN » Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:30 pm

510freak wrote:I really want a goon...now more so

They're clearly the sexiest of body styles ;) . Honestly, I've just always kinda liked them. My parents had the identical car when I was a kid. Just an all around useful vehicle.
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Re: Just another car I'll never finish.

Postby DRIVEN » Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:31 pm

Racks are pretty popular in the vintage import scene and I've been looking for options for a while. The Yakima and Thule baskets are pretty pricey and so are the towers and bars for that matter. I ran across these universal cast aluminum stands on CL and picked them up for $40. I really like the idea of a platform for a DIY or custom rack. Since I'm not really into biking, snowboarding or kayaking, I went the basket route. These stands make it pretty easy to create whatever you want. It's something I can throw on for a trip or show then take it off and hang it on the wall when not in use. Here's a link with more info and specs.
http://www.nrsweb.com/shop/product.asp? ... eptid=1379
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Since I had some plywood and steel hanging around, I was only into the whole shebang around $60. Kind of a fun way to kill a Sunday afternoon.
Starting with the towers, I played with placement and took some base measurements. I settled on a 40"X48"X4" overall dimension.
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I grabbed 2 sticks of 1" square tubing and started cutting and welding.
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A couple quick coats of hammered finish paint. The color is pretty close to the wheels.
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Phase two started out as a half-sheet of 3/4" plywood. This particular piece has been leaning in the corner of the shop for 8 years and is a furniture grade cherry finish. FANCY! I beveled all the edges and put a 45* edge on the front. To add some interest and give some hook points for bungees or rope, I put 12 2" holes in it. Then I sanded it up nice and purdy.
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Random beer fridge shot:
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Three coats of spar varnish:
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All assembled and on the car...
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I designed it so I could add a cowling to the front but haven't decided on the "right" look yet. There was an old beat up 620 tailgate floating around here but I can't find it now. I was thinking of cutting the D A T S U N letters out of the center and using that. Maybe some wood slats. Maybe just a sheet of aluminum. I don't know yet.
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Re: Just another car I'll never finish.

Postby DRIVEN » Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:39 pm

Finally got around to putting a cowl/deflector on my roof rack. I used an old, rough, rusty tailgate for my letter source. It was originally on my brother's green 521 but was sold to Jayden with a huge pile of parts a few years ago. I called to see if I could buy it back and he just donated it to the project :mrgreen: . Anyway, I cut the tailgate into pieces, trimmed around the letters and riveted them to a strip of sheet metal. The sheet metal was then riveted to the frame of the rack. I wanted the rusty letters to "float" so I used some MagnaMask letters to save me from having to tape it all off, then shot it with flat black. The flash makes it look glossier than it really is.
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Re: Just another car I'll never finish.

Postby DRIVEN » Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:40 pm

Got the rack on. Gave it a quick wash and repainted the hood and window frames with some trim coat. I did some measuring and I think I've got my swaybar idea worked out. More to come on that later. My brother has a set of 15X7 AutoBahn wheels on his 240Z project that he isn't using right now. Wasn't sure if the wheels would clear but I know the tires are too big. Mocked one of them up and it looks like they'll work if I come up with a set of 195/50-15 tires. A buddy of mine owns an alignment shop and had some coilovers he removed from a BMW 325 in his scrap pile so they followed me home. Now I need to be on the lookout for a pair of 280ZX struts (bigger brakes). Between the swaybars, bigger brakes, wider tires, lighter wheels and power booster, this thing ought to handle pretty well once I'm done.
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Re: Just another car I'll never finish.

Postby DRIVEN » Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:43 pm

Got some projects taken care of. Started with some brakes:
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I stole an idea from a Volvo forum...stacked sway bars. I came up with a total of 3 stock sway bars. One was on the car, one from a B210 I parted out years ago, and one from Banner. The 510 and B210 bars are almost identical. Maybe they are actually the same part but I found the 510 bar was just slightly wider -- maybe 1/4". It goes something like this. Started with this pile of parts:
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Painted the sway bars. I had to make one of the U shaped brackets too, (2) 1/8" rectangle shaped plates. (4) 2.5" bolts, (4) 1.25" tube sleeves, stock end links + 2 extra bushings to go between the bar ends.
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The next few pics are pretty self explanatory:
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After I got it on the ground and drove it around the driveway a bit I discovered that the lower bar would contact the TC rod on hard bumps. I ground the offending area a little (probably 1/8") and all is well. If my car wasn't lowered it may not have been an issue.
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I also experimented with my stash of random sway bars to see what I could make work of the back. Guess what? A stock 510 front bar fits pretty well.
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The center mounts were just 2 1/2" exhaust clamps and some 1/4" plate.
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The end link mounts were some 2" angle iron with a gusset welded on the back side. (The rearend is at full droop in the photo. At ride height it is pretty much level.)
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There is no less than 1/4" clearance at any point. My car has 2" lowering blocks on the rear. I don't know if this would work with a 1" block and I doubt it would have room at all with stock rear suspension. I haven't had a chance to punish it through any good twisties yet but just driving around town it feels dramatically better. In theory this should be a pretty good balance. The same amount of torsional resistance was added to each end of the car. I'll update once I give it some serious drive time.
Last part of the upgrades were some borrowed AutoBahns from my brother's lonnnnnnnng term 240z project. I had to buy my own 195/50-15 Falkens since his tires were too big.
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Re: Just another car I'll never finish.

Postby DRIVEN » Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:46 pm

Well it's about time to put this one back into regular rotation. With the Cutlass and the Goldwing as summer rides, I really didn't put a lot of miles on it this summer. Mostly short trips to the shop and Napa, both are less than 2 miles away. It developed a weird habit of randomly dying with absolutely no warning. Acts just like someone turns off the key. With only 2 exceptions, it has always started right back up. I've swapped out every single sensor, the ECM, ICM and coilpacks with spares I have. I've verified all the power feeds and grounds and monitored it with a scanner and never caught it in the act. By process of elimination I've kind of narrowed it down to an intermittent problem with the harness. That would make the most sense since almost every wire in it was cut and spliced. So far it's always gotten me home but I just can't trust it anymore. I guess I just need to get motivated enough to peel the harness out and split it apart. Urg! I just can't want to. Not really much of a choice though.

Pulled the harness and did some testing. Couldn't find anything definitive. Linked all my grounds together in hopes that if a connection failed there would be a redundancy. Most of the connectors were disassembled and all the pins were slightly crushed so that they would have some tension on the connection when plugged in. I also rerouted a few things and swapped out the crank sensor since it's easier to get to with everything apart.
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Another thing I did was relocate my sending unit for my temperature gauge. The previous location would have been okay if the thermostat was in it's original location but since I moved it to the back of the head it wasn't really telling me anything useful.
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I guess I'll just have to put some miles on it before I know if I accidentally fixed my dying problem. I have my doubts.
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Re: Just another car I'll never finish.

Postby DRIVEN » Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:51 pm

My brother and I traded cars a couple times last week so I could do some work on his bus and his '36 pickup. When I got my car back from him he has washed it all up and given it a mini-detail. Since it's spring and the majority of the rainy season is gone, I threw the roof rack back on.
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It took me 2 days to even notice that he had also filled all the holes in my rear hatch where the old emblems and factory license plate lights were. Maybe if I keep trading cars he'll get bored enough to just paint it for me.
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...and a random wife pic...
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Re: Just another car I'll never finish.

Postby izzo » Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:54 pm

I've followed this one for a while


Do you still have that blue wagon:? i wanted to get it a while back... :D
8========D ~~~ ( o Y o )
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Re: Just another car I'll never finish.

Postby DRIVEN » Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:55 pm

Look what found me on CL. Not sure if the controller works but the kit is complete minus the bottle mounting brackets. Came with 25, 50, 75 and 100 shot nozzles. Looks like an add-on purge valve too. The bottle was empty though. I figured for $100 I'd just roll the dice. Looks like new retail is around $750 so I hope I did okay. Haven't installed it yet.
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and Canby '13. Snagged a spot in the cool kid section:
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Now you guys are all caught up. Just been driving it.
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